• Dear Tara Brown: Stop Pulling Up the Ladder

    by  • March 28, 2012 • News, People & Events • 5 Comments

    On the 26th of March, Tara Brown, a tech writer for Forbes magazine took up the traditional activity of a marginalized person in an exclusive group by taking a great big shit on anyone trying to climb up behind her.

    She said, in essence, that unless you proved your chops to her satisfaction, you aren’t a real Geek and you should, in essence, go die in a fire. (She’s writing for Forbes, so she said it in cleaner language, of course, but let us not get into tone, shall we? I’m angry. The three dudes who pointed the article out to me were also angry, so I feel content using many swear works and vivid descriptions of poop to let you the reader know how I feel.)

    Here’s the article. Here’s my favorite bit, as it relates to this site specifically.

     Now if someone sticks a video game into their XBOX 360 console, they self-label themselves a ‘gamer.’

    Well, what the hell else would you call it? A disk inserter? I am a PROUD disk inserter, damnit. Now, off to cafe press to make some clever tshirts about it. To me, if you play games and you enjoy it, and you want to call yourself a gamer, guess what? TA DA! You’re a gamer. Just like if you love tech stuff and you write about tech stuff on Forbes magazine and you want to call yourself a geek, TA DA you’re a geek! It IS a label you put on yourself, because it is empowering to label yourself, and depowering, dare I say, repressive to only have labels someone else has granted you by the grace of how awesome they are.

    Especially when it comes to being a geek. Because being a geek is a Dude’s Game right now, and what that means is that in order to be granted the label geek, if its something others bestow on you, it’s either gotta be a dude, or a lady who is playing by the dude’s rules.

    And so we come to Tara shitting on everyone behind her. I don’t know Tara, I don’t know what kind of bitchin’ feminist work she’s done in Sudan or Libya. I don’t know what her Feminist cred is, so I’m only going to address her words here in this article. In this article, she basically tells readers what her cred is, who she considers credible, and how if you don’t meet those criteria, you aren’t a geek. (And the implicit go die in a fire.)

    Is Tara a geek? Apparently. She gives many examples of how she’s a geek, her husband is a geek, her friends are geek, and therefore, thanks to the (mostly) men around her, you can rest assure she is a geek! She tells us how some people calculate the credentials of a geek. There are venn diagrams, and GOSH don’t we love those. And then she quotes Patton Olswald in what I consider one of the most ‘woe is us, our culture is dying’ grognard piece of crap article he could have written.

    (Special Note: Geek Culture isn’t dying. It’s growing and changing. Fucking deal with it.)

    Her definitions of what is or isn’t a geek are largely created by men. More men are geeks, so okay, that’s okay. Except that it isn’t. Rather than telling us what she thinks a geek is, she’s telling us what a bunch of dudes think a geek is, and how she fits into that category. That is, she let a bunch of men define what she wants to be, and accepts the label from them, rather than taking the label and fitting it to herself.

    Now, she goes on to talk about a 13 year old who knits. (Because ALL GIRLS KNIT, AMIRITE LADIES?) and how this girl is a geek because she loves knitting and her friends make fun of her for it. (Because ALL GEEKS ARE MADE FUN OF, AMIRITE GEEKS?) It’s a sweet gesture toward inclusiveness. But because she’s only been granted her geek status by dudes (according to her article, that is,) she must bend her narrow definition to squeeze this ONE particular girl in. Because as a label that must be granted by others, exceptions must be made, instead of simply letting people in.

    Tara had to (it appears) to work very hard to earn her cred. She had to work very hard to get where she is. (No doubt, Forbes is very much a big deal, and good for her!) The trouble is that by demanding other women meet imaginary standards set up by dudes, instead of extending the ladder down and letting anyone climb up, she’s only dangling down a rope for people who fit her new set of standards. She’s playing the boys game. It’s a standard reaction by trend setters and people who break through a ceiling. “This was really hard for me, it should be hard for you too,” is a classic behavior.

    It also fucking sucks.

    Because let me tell you. No one fakes being a geek. No one pretends. There is no way you can get more attention pretending to be a gamer than you can pretending to like football. Any woman I have ever met who didn’t seem ‘geek’ enough to me was merely someone who hadn’t gotten a chance to engage in the culture. They didn’t have all the background, they hadn’t read all the comics, they didn’t know the workings of a con. Not because they didn’t know or care. But more often, because they weren’t allowed on the ladder to learn. They’d been chased out of the RPGA, or the local comic book store. They’d been shut down on the message boards or found 4chan just to vile a place. It isn’t that they weren’t interested. It’s that they weren’t given a rope up by someone who had already ‘made it’ or they found the rungs of the ladder up covered in the shit of people who had gone up before her.



    Filamena is a professional writer and game designer who isn't very good at writing bios. Having written for White Wolf, Catalyst, Green Ronin and a number of smaller table top games, she's been freelancing for several years. Interested in the indie game scene, Filamena also publishes independently with her life partner at Machine Age Productions. She's the mother of two (almost three) kids, an outspoken liberal and pro sex feminist.


    5 Responses to Dear Tara Brown: Stop Pulling Up the Ladder

    1. avatar
      March 28, 2012 at 16:17

      I’m so glad you wrote something about this! It just reminds me of all the “indie cred sellout nonsense” that’s always happening. And it’s kind of hilarious, in a way, that gamers are trying to outgeek each other because it’s become so mainstream now, if you buy an angry birds shirt at hot topic you’re clearly not gamer enough. Like it’s some kind of competition. Like gamers like competition, or something.

      ANYWAY… some really valid points about women having to work harder in a men’s game. Although… I’m curious if this is actually (or was ever really) true. Men do get represented as the dominant geek force… but haven’t women always been gaming too? Where do they get these statistics from? I feel like this is partially a myth our culture is telling us, that there’s more men than women who game. I just don’t have any proof.

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      • avatar
        March 28, 2012 at 19:45

        The most recent study I’ve been able to find says that 40% of gamers are women. So men are still the majority, but not by much.

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        • avatar
          March 28, 2012 at 20:22

          The myth is that “real gaming” has a fixed meaning, rather than being constantly redefined as “the part of game-play that is male-dominated.”

          (We do it too; when was the last time we included the female-dominated fandom RP community in our conversations?)

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    2. avatar
      March 28, 2012 at 18:13

      It’s especially funny since she even states that there are multiple kinds of geeks (coffee geek? I mean, what the hell?) and then focuses on gaming as the problem. There’s a conflation of snobbery with geekiness, it’s true.

      But I’m left with questions. Am I a real geek? Are only certain kinds of geek acceptable? Are you a fake geek only when you use it to garner attention? Do I need to be suitably humble or it doesn’t count? Am I not allowed to be proud of the things that I’m good at?

      So strange. So very very strange.

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    3. avatar
      March 29, 2012 at 01:01

      I also wanted you to know there are some other women talking about this. (As if you didn’t know already.)

      Like most of what Leigh Alexander writes, I only agree with about half of what she writes, but I enjoy reading the whole thing regardless. She speaks with… ahem… sympathy for those geeks that have to protect their wounded hearts. http://sexyvideogameland.blogspot.com/2012/03/about-that-fake-geek-girls-article.html

      Over at Team Valkyrie (who, by the way, you should be reading ANYWAY,) she, like me, thinks we should be cheering each other on, not knocking each other down. http://www.teamvalkyrieftw.com/2012/03/dear-tara-tiger-brown-and-forbes-go-away/

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